Ely Wildspace started in 2006 as a campaigning group called LPCRE; Local Campaigners for the Protection of Rural Ely. The local people of Ely and district were worried by statements from the new owner of part of Roswell Pits that he wanted to convert it into a marina for narrow-boats. Despite having no planning permission work began on the site, with trees cleared, and services and hard standing installed. Our view was that the construction work, noise, physical disturbance and pollution that a marina would bring would cause significant harm to the site’s rich wildlife. Local users also told us that it would greatly reduce the existing amenity value of the area for the people of Ely and beyond.
In response we successfully lobbied for ECDC to issue a Planning Contravention Notice to the developer, and to place a Tree Preservation Order on the remaining trees at the main pit. We also provided a barrister to help the Council defend an appeal against its 2008 Enforcement Notice. There has been no significant development of the site since 2007.
The marina issue threw into focus the need for a more strategic vision for all remaining habitat fragments around Ely. Working with the Wildlife Trust we canvassed the views of our entire membership, local landowners, and hundreds of members of the public, to develop the idea of Ely Wildspace - a carefully zoned multiple-use area which can secure the long-term future of Ely's green spaces for wildlife and local people alike.
Protection of most of the area was greatly enhanced in 2009 when Natural England expanded the Site of Special Scientific Interest which protected the geology of a portion of the Roswell area into Ely Pits and Meadows SSSI - an 86 hectare area covering nearly all of the Ely Wildspace, and notified not just for its fossils but for its breeding waterbirds, and in particular its breeding and wintering bittern.